The final countdown – Graham Smith

With the girls producing just 0.74 kg milksolids I have decided to finish up for the season. Dry off date is the 4th May. So, in the end they didn’t milk much longer than last year, and I only gained a couple of percent in total production. Still, with the pay out well up and not having the need for PKE through the autumn cashflow has been good.

OAD is still something that I’m getting used to. The cows have settled into it well, but each year’s heifers struggle due to their smaller udders. One heifer absolutely thrived on the system and milked very well, but Murphy struck, and she was the only heifer to go empty. I decided to carry her over and hope not getting in calf was an aberration. Time will tell if that is a wise move.

The round length is 72 days with an average cover of 1840 kg DM/ha. I am moving that out longer, with the use of silage to build cover for spring now while I can get the growth. This morning is the second frost of the season, so that should deal to eczema but will also slow growth.

With calving coming up I thought I would share with you something I do to cut down on mismothering. In the calving paddock I only use those tall standards that you would normally use to stop jumping stock. The calves walk under the wire, as they do, but instead of getting a tickle up they stay calm and sleep close to the fence and their dam. I have had less calves being mismothered or being found three paddocks away! Of course, mum is a lot calmer because she can see her calf. It may not work so well with Friesian type animals, but in my cross bred herd it works fine.

I have finished all the pruning of the paulownias for the season and am now planning for another big planting session through June and July. It is now obvious that there are too many trees on a couple of the paddocks, and I am going to start felling them this week. Demand for timber is growing and they will all be milled shortly. Even though I am claiming carbon credits for this block I will not need to pay any back. This is because I will still maintain the 30% canopy coverage. It is all just a matter of doing a little measuring before cutting to keep things right. Fencing for the plantings will take place through May, so I have a busy time ahead.

The March field day was a success with 51 people attending. It was a good discussion and I think everyone enjoyed the walk. Afterwards the farm forestry members stayed on for a BBQ where we chewed the fat and enjoyed each other’s company. I notice that people are enjoying the social occasions even more since covid.

The shade study is now completed, and we await the results, I have a feeling about what they will be but won’t pre-empt anything. The cows were glad to be back in one mob and to not have to put up with constant drone flights over them. In the meantime, more interest has been shown in what is happening here and I will watch with interest if more studies happen. Fellow farm foresters and have been attending meetings organised by AgResearch to look into getting information to farmers on trees. It is ongoing and I hope we are successful in getting the information out there.

As a forester I always enjoy attending our annual conference. This year it was in Wellington, and Tess and I were asked to make a presentation on our farm and how the trees work with the cows. It went very well; I learnt more about trees and made some useful contacts.

Away from work my family got together over Easter in the Coromandel. We hired a large bach and moved in. Three generations with one grandchild and a lot of fun. Managed to catch enough fish to feed them all, and best of all we agreed we want to do it again.

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